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Saturday 19 August 2017

Jim must decide how best to use returning duo

Former star Brennan knows plight of Flynn and Macauley

Ger Brennan and Diarmuid Connolly bring the Sam Maguire to Hill 16 after beating Mayo in the 2013 All-Ireland SFC decider
Ger Brennan and Diarmuid Connolly bring the Sam Maguire to Hill 16 after beating Mayo in the 2013 All-Ireland SFC decider

Ger Brennan knows the dangers associated with attempting to time a comeback from injury for the middle of a championship summer.

"At times then, you can probably end up doing too much," the former Dublin centre-back explains.

"Which happened on occasion. Many a footballer will tell you that you push it too much when you should be more patient.

"But given the nature of the season and how many games you have with club and county, there's always deadlines around the corner."

Influential

Saturday, it would seem, is that sort of deadline for Dublin's currently injured players.

There were little hints from Jim Gavin after the Leinster final that his optimism over Paul Flynn and Michael Darragh Macauley wouldn't be wasted this time.

We won't know for certain until Dublin hit the pitch in Croke Park but Saturday evening could see the return of the hugely influential duo to their match-day squad for the first time this summer.

Quite how much football either player has in them just now is as open to interpretation as one of Gavin's injury updates.

It is Gavin's unstated policy to be vague when asked about matters pertaining to injuries to his players.

"Another week and he would have made it," is a familiar Gavin refrain.

Yet there was more meat on the bones of his answer about Macauley and Flynn after the Leinster final, something that hinted they might actually be seen in a Dublin jersey sooner rather than later.

"They're very close. Michael Darragh, another week he might have been available for selection," he said.

"Actually he was (available) but we just needed to get some game-time into him with the club, and Paul as well. They're very, very close now."

Both Flynn and Macauley have returned to training although neither are rid of their ailments.

Flynn has wrestled with a hip problem he thought had subsided earlier this year.

Speaking to the Herald back in May, Flynn explained that he felt "fresh for the first time in ages at this time of year," after playing the last four matches of Dublin's spring campaign.The league final defeat to Kerry however, was his last appearance for Dublin.

Macauley meanwhile, is rehab-ing a knee injury Gavin denied was a torn cruciate but is understood to require surgery at the end of the year, provided it holds up that long.

The immediate use of either may come down to whether one or both are required in the hope of swinging a victory on Saturday.

In 2014, Brennan stood in an identical position.

An Achilles injury early in the year required an operation and he hadn't played since the 2013 final as a result.

"You're still fully connected to the squad," he explains.

"In terms of your time, you're doing more. And there's always that hope of getting back out on the pitch.

"And looking at the lads doing full training when you're doing some pitch work, it does help with those little targets. You're saying 'right, another couple of weeks and I'll be back in the mix there'.

"And it does give you that extra bit of energy to make you want to work harder. I did my final session, the final physio session before going back into full contact and it went perfectly.

"In terms of multi-directional running, quick reaction stuff, hitting pads. It felt good.

"Went into a full training session then, but as soon as I went into a full match session like that, the whole Achilles just broke down again.

"And so that was eight weeks post-surgery number one on the left Achilles."

Recover

It was facing into a quarter-final against Monaghan when he stood almost at the precipice of complete recovery.

"I wasn't happy with it after the Leinster final so we said we would until after the Monaghan match.

"The following week, I tore into training. And the weekend after the Monaghan match, the whole thing just broke down on me.

"So that was that for the season."

Brennan wasn't about to give up on his Dublin career though and flew out to Hakan Alfredson, the Swedish doctor generally recognised as the best Achilles specialist in his field.

He identified an inflammation in the Plantaris tendon, which runs from the inside of the knee, down along the calf and then parallel to the Achilles and attaches to the foot.

The operation was a success but after being advised to take a complete break from playing, St Vincent's run to the All-Ireland club semi-final meant Brennan couldn't adhere to orders.

"The stress of trying to get back continuously was having a negative effect on my recovery," he explains.

"Then, I began to think of the bigger picture. I had been two years fecking around with this thing and for some reason, Collie Moran came into my head.

"I remembered Collie had to finish up and had a hip replacement.

"I didn't want to be in a similar situation with my own health and I hoped to play with Vincent's for as long as possible."

So the 2013 All-Ireland final transpired to be Brennan's final game with Dublin.

For almost two years, he grafted and trained and underwent rehab but unlike the possible scenario facing Flynn and Macauley this weekend, he couldn't make it back onto the pitch.

"That in itself created a lot of frustration as well," he notes.

"Because you weren't involved tactically.

"Obviously you had experience and you could offer a lot of advice to players and management.

"But after a while, that impetus and that enthusiasm that you have for it begins to drain. Because ultimately, a player finds purpose in playing.

"And that's the be-all and end-all," Brennan concludes. "If you're not playing, you're ultimately not contributing."

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